Cold War Kids return with New Age Norms 1, an eight-song release that's almost an EP and almost an LP. It's part of a planned three-part release. New Age Norms 1 is eight songs of Cold War Kids bliss including the two singles "Complainer" and "Dirt in My Eyes." Truth is, all eight songs on this release are strong listens that carry the easy identifiable brand of Cold War Kids alternative funk.
When you listen to Cold War Kids there are two things that always stand out - the thick bass lines from Matt Maust and the crazy lead vocals from Nathan Willett. Willett's piano work with Matthew Schwartz's keyboard can't be understated either. Joe Plummer’s drums compliment the band's sound perfectly along with the blues-vibed guitar of David Quon too. Cold War Kids are an amazing band from a musicianship standpoint and Willett's voice is so uniquely identifiable that it makes any release automatically good.
The difference between good and great for any Cold War Kids release are the songs themselves. For New Age Norms 1 - the band's not doing anything altogether that different from what they've done in the past. But the songs are really good. They had found a trademark sound long before "First" blew up in 2015, but when they found success a few years ago they really settled into it. New Age Norms 1 has that sound all over it. On songs like "Fine Fine Fine" and "Complainer" - you hear it right away. Even though "Fine Fine Fine" is more of an album track, it still works as a single thanks to the ramped-up hook in the chorus.
More on the song front, "Waiting for Your Love" is a smooth song featuring Willett climbing up into his higher range. The piano and funk vibed song sounds great - like something Jamiroquai would come up with in 1997. "Beyond the Pale" isn't so much of a funk song as it is a blues song and CWC just let's Willet's voice do the work. "Dirt in my Eyes" is another awesome single - the backing vocal hooks paired with the bass make it the perfect, heavy groove song. When the falsetto chorus hits it's all the better. "4th of July" is more piano driven than most of the record. It's not great, the overdriven/reverbed vocals don't do much here - it's an odd production choice that doesn't make sense. Other than that, the song's good.
"Calm Your Nerves" is a solid album track. There's lots of soul to it and it's got a nice hook. It's the kind of song that's good on the first listen and then it steadily grows on you over time too. "Tricky Devil" features a very basic drum rhythm and then a basic melody too. It's not a bad song, but it's just kind of meh - nothing great, nothing terrible.
Cold War Kids' New Age Norms 1 kicks off their planned album trilogy in a big way. Even the just okay songs here are still damn good. New Age Norms 1 will keep the Cold War Kids train moving right along and it will leave fans ready for 2 and 3.